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EPISODE 7: Phillip Hears His Name

Phillip's new US citizenship status is the celebratory focus of this episode of TAPIT. It's a celebration 30 years in the making, and it ends in a custom poem worthy of an inauguration.

Join us on the journey of a lifetime, as Phillip overcomes rage, discovers love, changes careers, adopts a new name, and learns to see the beauty in his own immigration story. 

Host Todd Boss traces Phillip's path of self-authorship from Vegas to Baja to Mexico City to Texas to Hollywood, and back to Vegas, in a tale filled with setbacks and surprises... then taps President Barack Obama's 2009 inaugural poet Richard Blanco to guest write an extraordinary poem of rejoicing and recognition, that elicits a tear for every step along the way. 

The Poem

Your Name :: My Name

for Phillip James, formerly Felipe Javier Hernando Meneses,

for myself, Ricardo De Jesús Blanco Valdés aka Richard White

Your name like my name :: infused with the singsong of Spanish from our mother countries that never quite spoke to us in the vernacular of our souls :: not your Mexican cacti or crime, not Mariachis or immigrants, not tequila or la Virgen de la Guadalupe—forgive the clichés :: not my Cuban palm trees or poverty, not mambo or brothels, not rum or la Virgen del la Caridad—forgive my own clichés :: perhaps clichés are all we know :: all we need or want to know of who we are, or are not?

Your name like my name :: inked on a U.S. immigration card :: let’s imagine we had the same,

exact number :: 531135 :: a palindrome, an omen :: destined to be sojourners all our lives :: back-and-forth, north and south, east and west :: through countries and cities mapped out by the compasses our minds needling home :: have we found it in our imagination :: or in the dirt beneath our feet :: or are we still looking for it in the clouds that pause in our eyes?

Your name like my name :: out of tune in English :: the flat, unrolled r’s of my Rrr-ica-rrr-do that I’d eventually translate into Richard :: a new me without a silent h :: the F of Felipe that you’d trade for the Ph of Phillip :: both of us wanting to love and be loved in the sounds of English we loved :: we, the names of Anglo-Saxon kings we donned :: we, our blood’s royal belonging to what we felt we belonged to :: or not?

Your name like my name :: the names in which we heard ourselves come to life :: me, in the meter of poets who allowed me to sing myself anew as their music :: you, in the language of sci-fi novels that spoke another world you needed to believe in :: and the names we both heard in the gunshots of movie westerns we loved :: cowboys who didn’t doubt their purpose :: always oneself belonging to a one landscape :: no questions, unlike us :: why didn’t we rename ourselves Wayne, Clint, or Copper?

Your name like my name :: in the names of the students we’ve called out when taking attendance :: Juan, Anita, Alberto :: whose lost eyes we’ve looked into as deeply as our own :: Cristina, Carlos, Carmen :: how we taught them to listen to the light of their inner voices :: how we gave them our breaths to shout out, We are here :: as alive and necessary as we learned to be by the grace of the words that saved us, too :: isn’t that what we have in the end—words?

Your name like my name :: the names we found in love :: you, in your Emily :: me, in my Mark :: names that spelled-out destiny, surprise, and surrender for us :: letters that dispelled our names from our Jungian selves :: the jesters, the bon vivants, the heedless lovers we thought we’d be forever :: their names that freed us to be one with them :: two clouds, two waves, two rays of lightning melded together :: Philemily, Marichard :: aren’t those are true names too?

Your name like my name :: Ricardo James Felipe White Richard Meneses Phillip De Jesús :: all the names we’ve let go of, all the ones we’ve taken :: names as teachers and husbands, caretakers and changemakers, chameleons and questers :: and all the names we have yet to call ourselves by, everywhere we have yet to claim as our own or not, real or imagined :: your name, mine:: always aching to spell H-O-M-E for ourselves.


Todd writes

After presenting his poem to Phillip, and getting the reaction he got, Richard Blanco told me this was one of the most rewarding experiences of his career. He said he felt like he’d made a friend. Phillip invited him to connect if he ever finds himself in Las Vegas. I told them to take a photo for us; I’ll post it here if they do.


If you think there's a poem in your story, leave us a message on our Haiku, Hawaii, guest line, at 808-300-0449.

Become a TAPIT insider by clicking here to join Todd’s Patreon followers for sneak peeks, outtakes, and other supplementary material.

1 Comment

Joan Johnson Drewes
Joan Johnson Drewes
Feb 01

Just listened to Episode 7 and I'm in awe. Such a beautiful story, beautifully told and Richard Blanco's poem is perfect - I can't contain my tears. Thank you, Todd Boss and the entire TAPIT team. This is outstanding work sharing human stories that touch us all.

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